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PM returns after two-nation tour

April 27, 2006 02:53 IST

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has returned to New Delhi after his five-day two-nation trip.

Complete Coverage: PM in Germany, Uzbekistan

The special aircraft carrying the prime minister and his entourage landed at the Palam Air Force base in New Delhi around midnight Wednesday.

He left Tashkent, Uzbekistan, earlier in the evening after a ceremonial reception hosted for him by President Islam Karimov at the Durmen Residence.

In a sign of the importance attached to the visit, President Karimov and Prime Minister Shavkat M Mirziyayev came to see off the Indian prime minister, and the President and Dr Singh spent some time at the VVIP lounge of Tashkent's airport before Dr Singh boarded his special aircraft.

Others who came to see him off included the Indian Ambassador in Tashkent Skand Tayal.

Earlier, addressing the gathering of senior officials and politicians from both sides at the official reception, Dr Singh expressed his deep appreciation to the government as well as the friendly people of Uzbekistan for the very warm welcome extended to him and his delegation.

"A visit to Uzbekistan is for me an experience that is both moving and replete with a sense of history. We have civilizational ties with Uzbekistan dating back to the dawn of history," he said.

"Even up to the early years of the last century in the major cities of Uzbekistan -- Samarkand, Bukhara, Khiva -- there were communities of Indian traders who lived and worked in harmony with the Uzbek people. Tashkent is immortal in our memories because if its association with a great son of India, Lal Bahadur Shastri. While paying my respects at Shastri's memorial this afternoon, I felt a deep sense of gratitude towards the government and people of Uzbekistan for their enduring tribute to our great leader."

"India was among the first countries to establish diplomatic relations with Uzbekistan in 1992. Of course, even as early as April 1987, we had opened an Indian consulate in Tashkent," Dr Singh said.

"Mr President, we applaud the achievements of Uzbekistan in facing multifarious challenges. Your success is important not just for the people of this country, but for central Asia as a whole. Your visit to in April last year was an important milestone in consolidating our ties. Uzbekistan has registered seven per cent increase in its GDP last year. Your plans to attract foreign investment for rapid growth are impressive. India stands ready to be your partner for mutual benefit in sectors ranging from agriculture and science and technology to mining and hydrocarbons. Our trade and economic ties are growing but we must do more. The Jawaharlal Nehru India-Uzbekistan center of information technology in Tashkent, inaugurated today, heralds a new beginning of cooperation in this field."

"Our common objective," Dr Singh said, "is to seek peace and prosperity for our peoples. Terrorism is a menace that must be fought collectively. Stability and prosperity of central Asia is in the interests not just of India and the world but the world community as a whole. This goal cannot be reached without Uzbekistan, which must lead the way."

"I was deeply touched by the popularity of our dances music and films in your country. We draw inspiration from our unique and enormously rich heritage."

The Prime Minister then concluded his address by quoting the great Uzbek philosopher and poet Alisher Navoi, who said 565 years ago: "May the earth be an abode of delight, pleasure, songs and orchards, May peace ascend to throne of the world, and let all the peoples gather for its feast."

Soon afterwards, Dr Singh and his high-powered entourage, including commerce minister Kamal Nath, Science and Technology Minister Kapil Sibal and National Security Adviser M K Narayanan left for the airport.

Ramananda Sengupta in New Delhi
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